NOAA Fisheries will withhold distribution gag IFQ commercial allocation on January 1, 2023, in the amount necessary to implement the proposed reductions in the gag commercial annual catch limit and annual catch target in the Interim Action to Reduce Overfishing of Gag in the Gulf of Mexico (Interim Action) which will act as an amendment to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) while in place.
NOAA Fisheries is currently reviewing the Interim Action and developing rulemaking; however, these processes will not be complete until sometime in 2023, after the initial IFQ allocation is made to IFQ shareholders.
What This Means:
This action will withhold the distribution of gag individual fishing quota allocation on January 1, 2023, in the amount equal to the proposed reduction in the allocation for shareholders in the groupers and tilefishes IFQ quota program.
The current gag grouper commercial annual catch limit of 1.217 million pound gutted weight and annual catch target of 939,000 pounds gutted weight is proposed to be reduced to 258,000 pounds gutted weight and 199,000 pounds gutted weight, respectively, through the Interim Action.
If NOAA Fisheries does not implement the Interim Action or a final rule implementing these measures is not effective by June 1, 2023, then the withheld allocation will be distributed back to the current shareholders, as determined on the date the withheld IFQ allocation is distributed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the Quota Reduction Occurring?
A 2021 stock assessment of Gulf gag (SEDAR 72 updated) indicated there were too few fish (overfished) and that too many fish were being caught (overfishing taking place).
In January 2022, NOAA Fisheries sent a letter to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) stating that gag were overfished, and that a plan to rebuild the gag stock needed to be developed and implemented within two years of the notification (i.e. by January 26, 2024).
Because of the poor condition of the gag stock, NOAA Fisheries and the Council recognized the urgency of reducing fishing pressure on gag prior implementation of the rebuilding plan in 2024
In order to reduce overfishing while the gag rebuilding plan is being developed, the Council recommended at its June 2022 meeting that temporary measures be put in place for the 2023 fishing year to reduce fishing effort and catch of gag.
Will I be Able to Comment on the Proposed Reduction in Harvest?
Yes, NOAA Fisheries will be publishing a proposed rule for the Gulf gag Interim Measures in early 2023.
The public will be able to comment on the proposed rule after it publishes.
Comments on the proposed rule will be used in making a determination on the final rule.
Where can I find more information on the gag Interim Measures?